How Fasting Activates Cell Rejuvenation, Autophagy

By Karen Hales, Neurology Solutions Contributing Writer

Intermittent fasting, the practice of going without food for some period of time, and caloric restriction are powerfully neuroprotective. Intermittent fasting increases autophagy, a metabolic process that eliminates cell waste that may be responsible for many of the effects of aging. Studies have demonstrated that fasting can help prevent heart disease, speed fat loss, and slow or reverse aging. Researchers have found that the autophagy process is often defective in cancer, infectious diseases, immunological disorders and neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease (PD). This might suggest that fasting can be used as part of Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease treatment.

Intermittent or short-term fasting, as well as exercise, are known to increase growth hormone release and generation of healthy tissue, leading to improvements in the body over time.

In addition to the timing of food consumption and digestion, another dietary intervention that may be of particular importance for those seeking Parkinson’s treatment is the ketogenic diet. One 2006 study suggests that a diet high in fat with highly restricted protein and carbohydrate intake has neuroprotective effects in both Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s sufferers.

In this video, Neurology Solutions Movement Disorders Center Medical Director Dr. Robert Izor explains the importance of nutrition and its correlation with metabolic enhancement for neurodegeneration (MEND).

How intermittent fasting helps slow or reduce aging

Autophagy, which is translated from the term “self-eating,” is the body’s cellular self-cleansing process. Completed in vascular structures called lysosomes, autophagy reduces inflammation and lowers insulin levels, allowing for the breakdown of fat. Cells also use autophagy to rid the body of damaged cell components.

Autophagy is shut down dramatically after consuming food. Glucose, insulin (or decreased glucagon), and proteins all turn off this self-cleaning process. Likewise, growth hormones and other anabolic steroid hormones diminish gradually with age, also contributing to loss of healthy tissue function. During starvation, cells break down proteins and non-essential components and reuse them for energy. Fasting also increases growth hormone release.

Both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease involve the accumulation of abnormal proteins in specific subsets of neurons. Autophagy works to remove substandard subcellular parts and unused proteins that can accumulate and cause inflammation and oxidative stress.

Many neurodegenerative conditions have some degree of mitochondrial dysfunction in common. The mitochondria in the cells produce 90 percent of the energy needed to support organ function and sustain life.

How to begin intermittent fasting

As we age, we no longer recycle damage as readily. Normalizing the autophagy system could theoretically help damaged cells clear out toxic accumulated proteins. Doctors therefore recommend fasting for short periods to activate this system as well as increase the number and quality of mitochondria. Instituting intermittent fasting or any other nutrition program should be done under the supervision of a medical professional or specialist who is experienced in your particular health history and medical condition.

There are many ways to fast, some healthier than others. Animal studies show the greatest metabolic enhancement is directly proportional to the length of fasting during the inactive phase of the day before and after sleep to allow the body to eliminate toxins and damaged structures and rejuvenate tissues. The simplest approach recommended under the MEND protocol is time-restricted feeding that ensures 12 hours of fasting during the non-active part of the day. This technique has shown significant results in helping restore health and tissue function during sleep.

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This video on Intermittent Fasting to Enhance Metabolism is the second in a series on MEND by Neurology Solutions, a comprehensive treatment center located in Austin, Texas, that specializes in Parkinson’s disease treatments, (PD), essential tremor treatments, and dystonia treatments. The video series is designed to educate regarding various areas of metabolism and promote longer and better quality of life for patients with neurodegenerative disorders and the community at large. Please follow Neurology Solutions’ Youtube page to be notified of future videos on lifestyle and treatment options for movement disorders.

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Neurology Solutions is accepting new patients seeking a specialist in managing Parkinson’s disease, dystonia, essential tremor and age-related movement disorders. If you would like a consultation for managing symptoms of a movement disorder, please contact Neurology Solutions or call 512-865-6310 to schedule an appointment with a movement disorders specialists.

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